Impacts of Brexit on Money Laundering Regulations

Blog / Impacts of Brexit on Money Laundering Regulations

England made history as the first country to exit the European Union, a move commonly known as Brexit. Economists worldwide had debated the potential distributive and divisive effects of Britain's departure from the EU on both Britain itself and the other member countries. Despite the predictions, Britain remained resolute in its decision and established the Brexit Parliament. Consequently, the outcomes of Brexit hold significant implications for the United Kingdom's economy as well as the countries of the European Union, sparking curiosity about the shape of the post-Brexit British economy.

Understanding Brexit

Brexit, an abbreviation of "British exit," denotes the UK's departure from the European Union, marking a significant shift in the country's economic trajectory. After 47 years of membership, the UK became the first and only country to formally withdraw from the EU. The decision to leave was largely influenced by factors such as the eurozone crisis, the perceived negative impact of EU regulations on British companies, increased costs, and the depreciation of the British pound. In June 2016, the UK held a referendum, and with 52% of the votes in favor, it cemented its decision to leave the EU. Suspicions held by the conservative government towards the EU played a pivotal role in initiating the secession process. On March 29, 2017, with the approval of Parliament under Article 50 of the British Treaty on the European Union, the official withdrawal process was launched. Notably, former Prime Minister David Cameron, who initially proposed the referendum, campaigned against Brexit following the referendum results and eventually resigned from his position.

Reasons behind the UK's Decision to Leave the EU

Several factors contributed to the UK's decision to exit the EU. The most prominent catalyst was the eurozone crisis, which had significant economic effects on both EU and UK countries. As a result, UK-based companies were compelled to make numerous strategic decisions in response to the decision to leave the EU.

Politically, the UK began perceiving the EU as an impediment to its growth since 2008. Trade volume expansion stagnated, causing the UK to view the EU as a hindrance. The restrictions imposed by the EU on domestic and foreign trade networks were among the primary factors driving the UK's decision to pursue Brexit.

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Regulations in the UK

To combat money laundering and terrorist financing, institutions worldwide, such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), have created laws and regulations. Financial institutions are obligated to adhere to these regulations, which aim to minimize the adverse effects of criminal activities on the economy by reducing the risk of money laundering. Failure to comply with these laws results in specific administrative penalties for non-compliant institutions. The primary objective of these regulations is to detect and prevent financial crimes, including money laundering and terrorist financing. All entities subject to the UK Money Laundering Regulations are required to adhere to policy and procedural obligations to minimize the risk of money laundering.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), an independent agency responsible for regulating the financial service industry, plays a crucial role in overseeing the behavior of financial institutions in both the retail and wholesale sectors. It oversees various entities such as stock exchanges, e-money institutions, banks, credit companies, and building cooperatives. The FCA's regulations include the implementation of Customer Due Diligence (CDD) measures.

Additionally, the UK government's tax authority, His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), is responsible for tax collection, border protection against illegal activities, and auditing employers' compliance with minimum employee wage requirements. The National Crime Agency (NCA) plays a significant role in combating extensive organized criminal activities within the UK. The NCA collaborates with local and international partners to fight against money laundering and counter-terrorist financing, imposing heavy penalties on individuals and institutions involved in such activities.

Detailed guidance to learn AML comppliance in the UK

Impact of Brexit on Money Laundering Regulations

On December 31, 2020, the UK completed the transition period to formally leave the EU, giving rise to various implications for countries and industries worldwide. The extent of the impact remains a topic of speculation. With this decision, new questions arise regarding the shape of the regulatory environment after Brexit and the effects on EU Anti-Money Laundering Directives and Regulations. According to the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD), UK financial institutions should establish a connection to UK fund transfers by obtaining specific documents from official sources such as the government. Moreover, the UK's recognition as a "third country" is anticipated to introduce delays in economic processes and potentially harm trade, leading to enhanced due diligence checks.

Slowing down these processes could increase the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing. Therefore, businesses are urged to implement a robust risk-based approach. Compliance with the laws outlined in the Sixth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD) mitigates concerns regarding the UK's adherence to this directive. Nevertheless, the impact of the UK's departure from the EU on these two directives and whether 5AMLD and 6AMLD will remain applicable post-Brexit remain unanswered questions.

The Impact of Brexit on KYC Regulations

Considering the significant implications of Brexit, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations for businesses in the UK. Non-compliance with these laws can expose companies to severe financial penalties and fraudulent activities.

The UK's departure from the EU necessitates a thorough understanding of the entities involved in international trade. Fraudsters go beyond impersonating customers and extend their deceptive tactics to assume roles such as CEOs, suppliers, and even entire businesses. Hence, all financial institutions must adapt to evolving local and global AML/CTF regulations, implementing KYC practices diligently.

Economists have highlighted potential divisive effects between the EU and the UK due to Brexit. EU-linked firms in the UK face significant adjustments, as they were previously required to comply with EU AML/KYC regulations as member states. With the post-Brexit EU decision, the UK will no longer have access to the simplified identity verification system, necessitating the implementation of advanced due diligence controls to accommodate new AML changes and requirements.

The extent of change resulting from Brexit decisions will vary for UK and Northern Irish companies based on their current European footprints. It is particularly crucial for institutions subject to AML laws, including banking, finance, insurance, as well as mobile and online gaming industry entities, to understand the implications and scope of Brexit fully proactively.

Moreover, it is anticipated that fraudsters will exploit the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process, posing a continued threat throughout 2021. Consequently, compliance with the necessary AML/KYC regulations becomes even more critical for UK businesses, enabling them to mitigate fraud risks effectively.

UK is one of the most influential global actors fighting against money laundering and terrorist financing.

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